I read a lot, and these days I also draw about the books I read. In 2017 though, my reading didn’t feature as much in my drawings. Here are 20 from 2017 in no particular order and the drawings.
The Best, not in order
- A year of magical thinking (Joan Didion): sketchbook drawing posted earlier here
- You must change your life: Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin (Rachel Corbett): Loved. Saw a different perspective of the Letters to a young poet author.
- Lives of the artists lives of the architects (Hans Ulrich Obrist): I loved this book, and drew (and literally drew) a lot from this book again and again.
- Reclaiming conversation: Sherry Turkle
- M Train (Patti Smith): Sketchbook drawing posted earlier here
- Liminal thinking (Dave Grey): Must read, like his earlier book Gamestorming that I return to again and again.
- Felicity (Mary Oliver)
- A woman looking at men looking at women (Siri Hustvedt): I’ve been a fangirl of SH since I read The Enchantment of Lily Dahl and The Sorrows of an American, and I enjoyed this one more than Living, Thinking, Looking, not least because of the essay she wrote about sculptor Louise Bourgeois, who I was just getting interested in.
Feeling is crucial to understanding a work of art. “Einfuhlung” coined by Robert Vischer in 1873 is “a way of feeling oneself into a work of art,” which ultimately becomes “empathy” in English. The meaning of an object influences the feelings it evokes.
- Re-read Redesigning Leadership (John Maeda): As always I go back to reading John Maeda’s books at crucial times in my life. I was so happy to read this book while struggling with the leadership role. I think what I liked most was another way of approaching leadership – the artistic approach which I really resonated with. This was drawn on a flight layover.
- Make it new: A history of Silicon Valley Design (Barry Katz): One word: Awesome.
- In Other Words (Jhumpa Lahiri)
- Re-read The end of the affair (Graham Greene): Listen to this.
- You and a bike and a road (Eleanor Davies): Inspiring and beautiful. Became one of my all-time favorite books.
- Kiki de montparnasse (Jose-Luis Bocquet and Catel Muller): Fabulous and engrossing.
- Re-read The Emigrants (WG Sebald): sketchbook drawing posted earlier here
And the rest
- Everything I never told you (Celeste Ng)
- The history of love (Nicole Krauss)
- A union of doubts (TL Uglow)
- At the Existential cafe: Freedom, being and apricot cocktails (Sarah Bakewell)
- Living, thinking, looking (Siri Hustvedt)
I read a lot of books in 2017 and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was one of them. I’ve always steered very clear of psychedelic fiction, being the straight-laced person that I am, but when I received the exact same edition on two separate occasions from two very close friends, I had to finally read it.
No, this is not a good town for psychedelic drugs. Reality itself is too twisted.
All the references to the Rolling Stones’ music and The Doors’ music was quite an educational journey for me – [who] steered so clear of all this narcotic-induced visions. This could be one of those “Read a book you hate” challenges!
I remember reading it and feeling quite hot, the language was so evocative of the Las Vegas strip and hot US highways in summer, and didn’t hate it as much as I expected to.
Here are some images from Google:
Ralph Steadman and Hunter S. Thomson had met once and it hadn’t gone too well: “A year later, Steadman was asked if he’d like to illustrate another, much longer, piece of Thompson’s for Rolling Stone magazine – about a drug-crazed trip Thompson had just made to Las Vegas with his Samoan attorney….Despite never having been anywhere near Las Vegas, he set to, and four days later sent off his drawings. “I was quite pleased with them, I remember. I thought I’d managed to complement the style of Hunter’s writing.” When the drawings arrived, Thompson anxiously unrolled them. “Ye gods,” he recalled. “Every one of them was perfect.” Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a huge hit and the two of them became friends. Under Thompson’s influence, Steadman’s work changed. “My drawing got stronger, less flaccid. He exposed me to the screaming lifestyle of the US.” But it was a friendship that came at quite a cost – to Steadman anyway.”
Have you read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Would love to know what you liked about it.
As I mentioned before, the last two years were busy years – our little tornado is still under five and needs enough hand holding and attention, and both the brown boy and I work full time. Sometimes I’m glad to have the anteater reminding me to draw –
Anteater: You haven’t been drawing much these days
Soo: Drawing…what’s that?
Anteater: You should change the way you draw yourself…
Soo: Oh really…?
Anteater: Have you seen yourself lately? Here take this mirror.
Soo: Mirror? I’ve been seeing myself on video calls.
Anteater: Really? Hmmph.One must take care of one’s appearance you know? (Aside: Hmm, That’s the first sign of insanity…not caring about appearance…)
As I said the other day, all through 2017 I was drawing out my stress. One day, after an incredibly difficult meeting I came back to my desk, and took a few minutes to quietly straighten myself out.
- 01: Soo: Thankful I can draw
- 02: Soo: Ah…Instagram…
- 03: Instagram post
- 04: Soo: Quickly finish this then go home for the next meeting
- 05: Soo: Ma? Umm..hmmm
- 06: Soo: I’m OK, I’m at work. Such a bad –
- 07: Ma: Oh you’re at work? I saw your post on Instagram – I thought something was wrong with Orin! Bye!
It was early 2017 when I first started to use my drawing to deal with work stress.
I was still grumpily trying to understand what my role as a Design Manager should be, and the anteater, as usual, gave his sage advice:
Sometimes all you need is a different perspective on life, like The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman.
And I also finished reading M Train by Patti Smith around that time.
While all this helps momentarily, there’s actually larger causes for work stresses which need to be carefully resolved. But of course, I didn’t know that then…
The last two years have been incredible years of growing for me in my professional life. Challenging work, difficult situations, and always the need to build trust from bottom up.
These are some of the earliest drawings from those days:
What kept me going was the long game, and guiding myself with
Progress, not perfection
which I learnt from this 99u talk by Effie Brown.
I also draw myself out of stress, since drawing is nearly therapy for me. The 2017 and 2018 sketchbooks are filled with “stressy” drawings – as my friend Uli would say – like this one:
After a while though I got used to it, and learnt how to survive difficult days
Though our man, the brown boy, did have the last word:
“Ultimately, it’s all about having a good time. Later on if you feel you haven’t enjoyed yourself it’s not worth it.”
This is what 2018 looks like in my life. Almost 8 journals finished, though there were days and weeks when I couldn’t bring myself to draw. It’s natural sometimes when going through moments of great change, that it takes a while before you find yourself again.
In between all the drawing life unfolded. And in September we moved to Hyderabad, where I started a new job with Microsoft, as one of their design leaders of Microsoft Edge (the browser). Now sixty days in we’re still settling down and coming to terms with a new city and new people.
If you’re around, don’t hesitate to hit me up!
Every morning I sit and drink my coffee and read a few pages of White in silence and calm, and it’s a beautiful meditative experience reading this book. I feel thankful for life and everything that is still left in this world for me to wonder at.]
Read it for the experience as well as for the content.
From the sketchbook called Captivity (Feb 2017).
In May 2018 this blog inktales completed 12 years. That’s a really long relationship in my life, second only to the brown boy! At 10 years I found that I had nearly 120 sketchbooks – those have contributed to nearly 600 posts, despite the ebb and flow of sharing. And after a gap of nearly 3 years, I’ve started posting again a few weeks ago.
For new friends and new visitors, here’s a list of my favorite posts over the years:
The brown boy and how we got together
My friend the anteater
Studying in Sweden
Food & Travel
A divine collision | What happened in Dharmsala
A book’s tours | In which a book I bought in Seattle sends us to Paris
Metaphysical | Deconstructing feelings and change
Paris, not me | Thoughts on romantic love
Getting where we’re going | Living everyday
Holiday Journal 2 | How drawing saves me